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EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 18
Verse 18. For many walk. Many live, the Christian life being often in the Scriptures compared with a journey. In order to induce them to imitate those who were the most holy, the apostle says that there were many, even in the church, whom it would not be safe for them to imitate. He evidently here refers mainly to the church at Philippi, though it may be that he meant to make the declaration general, and to say that the same thing existed in other churches. There has not probably been any time yet in the Christian church when the same thing might not be said.
Of whom I have told you often. When he preached in Philippi. Paul was not afraid to speak of church-members when they did wrong, and to warn others not to imitate their example. He did not attempt to cover up or excuse guilt because it was in the church, or to apologize for the defects and errors of those who professed to be Christians. The true way is, to admit that there are those in the church who do not honour their religion, and to warn others against following their example. But this fact does not make religion any the less true or valuable, any more than the fact that there is counterfeit money makes all money bad, or makes genuine coin of no value.
And now tell you even weeping. This is the true spirit with which to speak of the errors and faults of Christians. It is not to go and blazon their inconsistencies abroad. It is not to find pleasure in the fact that they are inconsistent. It is not to reproach religion on that account, and to say that all religion is false and hollow, and that all professors are hypocrites. We should rather speak of the fact with tears; for, if there is any thing that should make us weep, it is, that there are those in the church who are hypocrites, or who dishonour their profession. We should weep,
(1.) because they are in danger of destroying their own souls;
(2.) because they are destined to certain disappointment when they come to appear before God; and
(3.) because they injure the cause of religion, and give occasion to the "enemies of the Lord to speak reproachfully." He who loves religion will weep over the inconsistencies of its friends; he who does not will exult and triumph.
That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. The "cross" was the instrument of death on which the Redeemer died to make atonement for sin. As the atonement made by Christ for sin is that which peculiarly distinguishes his religion from all others, the "cross" comes to be used to denote his religion; and the phrase here means, that they were the enemies of his religion, or were strangers to the gospel. It is not to be supposed that they were open and avowed enemies of the cross or that they denied that the Lord Jesus died on the cross to make an atonement. The characteristic of those persons mentioned in tile following verse is, rather, that they were living in a manner which showed that they were strangers to his pure gospel. An immoral life is enmity to the cross of Christ; for he died to make us holy. A life where there is no evidence that the heart is renewed is enmity to the cross; for he died that we might be renewed. They are the enemies of the cross, in the church,
(1.) who have never been born again;
(2.) who are living in the indulgence of known sin;
(3.) who manifest none of the peculiarities of those who truly love him;
(4.) who have a deeper interest ill worldly affairs than they have in the cause of the Redeemer;
(5.) whom nothing can induce to give up their worldly concerns when God demands it;
(6.) who are opposed to all the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; and
(7.) who are opposed to all the peculiar duties of religion, or who live in the habitual neglect of them. It is to be feared that at all times there are such enemies of the cross in the church, and the language or, the apostle implies that it ks a proper subject of grief and tears. He wept over it, and so should we. It is from this cause that so much injury is done to the true religion in the world. One secret enemy in a camp may do more harm than fifty men who are open foes; and a single unholy or inconstant member in a church may do much more injury than many men who are avowedly opposed to religion. It is not by infidels, and scoffers, and blasphemers, so much, that injury is done to the cause of religion; it is by the unholy lives of its professed friends—the worldliness, inconsistency, and want of the proper spirit of religion, among those who are in the church. Nearly all the objections that are made to religion are from this quarter; and if this objection, were taken away, the religion of Christ would soon spread its triumphs around the globe.
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